The Distribution of Growth-Phase American Eels in Saline Waters of the East Coast of North America

Tuesday, August 19, 2014: 8:40 AM
207 (Centre des congrès de Québec // Québec City Convention Centre)
Luke Poirier, MSc , Biology, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PE, Canada
David Cairns , Science Branch, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Charlottetown, PE, Canada
Louis Bernatchez , Biologie, Université Laval, Quebec City, QC, Canada
Trevor S. Avery , Biology, Acadia University, Wolfville, NS, Canada
Despite intense conservation interest in the American eel (Anguilla rostrata), there exists no robust data source from which to assess population status across a broad spatial area in saline waters. Eel distribution in saline waters was evaluated by compiling eel count and presence/absence data from 25 saline surveys involving ca. 238,000 data points spanning 1959 to 2012. Eel captures were classified based on exposure to the sea as defined in a habitat atlas compiled by Cairns et al. (2012) that examined eel habitat compiled from eel fisheries data. Trends showed that the majority of eels occupy sheltered and semi-exposed saline waters; in particular, those waters of large bays and sounds in the USA. Canadian coastal surveys indicated a virtual absence of captures in open saline waters; however, US surveys had greater and variable numbers of eels. Mean depths and distance-to-land indicate that eels are most prevalent in shallow, near-shore waters. Trends and modeling, in their current state, provide compelling evidence of broad spatial and temporal habitat usage in saline environments primarily in sheltered coastal waters and semi-exposed bays. Data compilation and analyses presented here provide a methodology for investigating spatial and temporal habitat use patterns for other geographically widespread organisms.